Working The Loop (07/21/2019)

CMLL

Jushin “Thunder” Liger just finished up his last show at Arena Mexico this week, and it was a pretty big spectacle. Not to say that their shows aren’t always special, as you get to see some of the best wrestling in the world week in and week out at the same venue, which is a rarity these days, but CMLL went out of their way to make Jushin’s last match really amazing.

It’s really strange to think that Jushin “Thunder” Liger will no longer be wrestling after this year. I have grown up watching a lot of his matches. When I think about it, his match against Flyin’ Brian Pillman is probably one of the first matches I have seen that had a Japanese wrestler in it. It would be either him or The Great Muta.

He’s had an amazing career, and I am so glad that CMLL gave him such a great send-off. They brought out their dancers and had Asian drums that looked really cool, and for a guy like Liger, who is so original and so insane, it was really appropriate. Now that the months are winding down, you should really appreciate these moments like this, because they won’t be around much longer.

As for the rest of the show, it was decent. I haven’t watched an Arena Mexico show on Friday night in a long time, but this was one of the decent ones. I really liked the Rush and L.A. Park brawl. L.A. Park does the Brody gimmick so well, and he always puts on a good show. Mistico is also one of those guys who always put on a good show when I see him. The rest of the card isn’t too bad, and I would say that checking out Arena Mexico weekly should be included in a lot of wrestling fans schedule. Even if you don’t speak the language, you can still pick up on a lot of what is going on. Some things can be a little jarring at first, like the 2 out of 3 falls aspect, but you get used to it after a while and you get to see some really amazing stuff.

Back to the L.A. Park match, Rush started working on his mask during the show, and it may be a set up for a match for a mask vs. hair match with Rush at some time. Park had been floating the idea of putting up his mask for a while, even setting up an angle some time ago that never came to fruition. He probably has the highest asking price in Mexico for his mask, so with him getting up there in age, I wouldn’t blame him for cashing in on that right now.

The main event was Liger, Negro Casas, who is also up there in age but looks great, Carístico, and Último Guerrero. It wasn’t the greatest match, but the theatre and the atmosphere surrounding it was really something to see. If you haven’t seen a CMLL show, especially a Friday night show, this would be the one I would suggest you watch to let yourself get into the product, because at least you get to see Liger’s last time there and you also get to see how the wrestlers set up for some angles in Mexico regarding their masks, which are highly regarded.

NJPW

We now sit one third through the G1 Climax for 2019, and we have had some amazing matches along the way this week. Really, this year differs from years past, because there is more of an emphasis on stories rather than insane match quality on its own. While this may be a bit weaker with the amount of really great matches in it, and I mean a tiny bit, it has made up for it by telling a different story every time. Everyone does their part and gets over the little things that make all of these matches come across great, and Kevin Kelly has done a great job on expanding upon those issues as well.

I don’t know if you can find a better production than New Japan in that aspect. While the WWE does a great job of making each event seem larger than life and as clean as possible, they really overlook those little stories that could be capitalized on. I guess you could argue that those things don’t matter, and they aren’t the reason why fans buy tickets, but at the same time, we should really try to expect the best product that one company can present to us, we are the ones paying for it. NJPW does a great job of setting themselves apart and presenting an amazing product.

The MVP for the tournament so far has to be Will Ospreay, but Kota Ibushi isn’t far behind. In fact, everyone is really putting on their working boots and giving some impressive performances. But, I can’t stress enough how far Will Ospreay has come in the past year, and he was already among one of the best wrestlers in the world before.

I am going to go in-depth later this week and break down the tournament so far before they come back on Wednesday, but I just want to mention that both Ospreay matches this weekend got 10/10 ratings for me. I make it a point to almost never give out 10 ratings. Those matches seem way too special to be liberal with a rating that is essentially saying, hey, this is one of the best matches I have ever seen, but I can’t deny how much I loved these two matches. I would say the Ibushi one was better in my eyes, but it wasn’t by much. They both told an amazing tale of Will trying to prove that he not just belonged at the top of the card, but could also beat big names in New Japan, and he lost both of them. Even though he still has some way to go on his journey, he has really turned into a legit star in Japan, and his work is really top-njotch. This all was done after fearing that he would miss time due to a neck injury, and they even let that play into the story as well. Just spectacular. Please check out those two matches if you see any this summer.

The funny thing is we aren’t even done with the G1 yet. We still have the rest of the tournament to go through…

CM Punk

Starrcast has announced that CM Punk will be appearing in Chicago for the Memorial Day weekend event. This has really started the rumor mills talking about him possibly making an appearance at AEW that weekend, and a lot of fans are saying that if he doesn’t it may be a huge waste of an opportunity.

Let’s be honest, and I say this as a pretty big Elite fan, this AEW thing has not been perfect. There has been a lot of growing pains, and a lot of people see Punk as the bandaid that would be able to cover that up as best as possible. But, the biggest hurdle and question with this entire thing is Punk. No one really knows where his head is at regarding wrestling. I think people have some ideas, but with all the mystery surrounding it, I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails on it. Maybe he is in the same boat as well. It is totally realistic to think that CM Punk hasn’t decided if he is going to wrestle for a big promotion again or not.

I think people are going to speculate and unless Punk does show up at All Out, people are going to have the perception that AEW dropped the ball, which I don’t know if that is fair or not. Yes, AEW should sign up any big name like CM Punk they can get, because that is going to be a huge part of where they can go with a mainstream audience, what stars they have, and how big are they. Jericho is one of those types. Having another big, established name that can sell tickets is ideal.

But, one thing that people seem to not realize is that Punk is kind of the only one who can make that decision. It could be that with these lawsuits and court fees his bank account isn’t looking as good as it was years ago, but I would imagine that his commentating gigs pay decent and he isn’t a guy who needs a lot of money. He seems to enjoy time with his family and enough to buy his comic books. The other issue is that wrestling hurts, and it breaks you down. With an older body, it is going to be a lot different when it comes to taking those bumps and bruises.

But hey, he could show up and it would be the biggest thing since Luger showed up at the Mall of America, right?

I guess I would say, just don’t hold your breath, but it would be amazing if it happened.

WWE

It seems like every time I get a look at house show crowds on Twitter, it gets worse every week. With TV starting to slowly turn around, it could cause the crowds to start to turn, but we probably won’t see that for a couple of months. It’s worrisome, with WWE on their way to network television and having this type of excitement level. I would think that wrestling fans would be as excited as I am that we are going to have a product on a station with the biggest visibility in a very long time, and our biggest barometer as far as an American audience, the WWE, is struggling to fill up house shows.

I know house shows have suffered since John Cena stopped working regularly. That, bad luck, and the ignorance of not establishing some stars in the past few years have really impacted live attendance. I would also think that Becky Lynch would have drawn some people in, but she has largely cooled off and I find the reason behind that would be having her involved in really poor booking. She built herself up organically with the crowd, and the way that the WWE has handled the entire thing has been subpar. Don’t get me wrong now. The WrestleMania main event was amazing, but I always felt like Becky should have won her way into the main event rather than Ronda giving it to her. I also felt like the finish being kind of botched and muddled never gave Becky that decisive win over Rousey that she needed to look like she was bigger than life. But there is time. I hope they don’t drop things because of house show attendance. I solely blame how this has all gone down on Vince and creative.

Kevin Owens is being booked how you should book guys like that. Those are the changes that needed to be done. We need a babyface that is likable and relatable sometimes. Kevin doing his “I’m going to tell it like it is and stick it to the boss’s son” program right now is really good. I hope they continue on with things like that. Even if ripping on a McMahon and beating them up has been done so many times that it is no longer fresh, you still like to have some fun while watching wrestling. I felt like a good amount of the past few months didn’t have much fun to WWE programming besides the 24/7 Title.

We’ll keep an eye on this as it continues to develop, but I hope the rumors of guys like Finn Balor getting a shot and with the minor improvements done with the show, we can start seeing returns on those changes and getting a different product that keeps us invested.

Site news

Sendai Girls released their entire show from 07/19 on YouTube, and I am going to be doing a review of it because it is something easy for people to find to watch. That should be posted on Tuesday along with a G1 recap that will get you set up for the remaining part of the tournament. This is going to be a lot of work, but Sendai Girls has been great lately, and I am really excited to see how the rest of the G1 shapes out. The stories this year have really gotten me vested, which isn’t always the case, to be honest.

I have watched every G1 for about 10 years straight, and before that, I watched the finals of years past. This one may be among my favorite. I have seen a lot of people online dunk on this year, and I have had some friends tell me that they think this year is a bit subpar, but I haven’t felt that way. I think I can understand how others see that, and the reasoning is that there is so much good wrestling everywhere, that New Japan doesn’t feel as unique as it did before. That’s totally understandable. I just think this year has some cool stories, and I really can’t wait to see how they all are fleshed out. As for Sendai Girls, Sareee, Meiko Satomura, Chihiro Hashimoto, and DASH Chisako are all tearing it up right now. Please, if you haven’t seen them perform, do a quick search on YouTube and have a fun evening. Anyway, that’s it for this time. See you this week for more Sendai Girls and New Japan coverage.

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Sendai Girls 07/07/2019

07/07/2019

They’re Girls, they wrestle in Sendai… It’s the SENDAI GIRLS!!!!!

I am really happy that I am starting to seek out more of this promotion and take in some of the stories and the talent that they have. Like I have said in previous blogs, this group isn’t the best in Japan, but they are so entertaining. I honestly had a blast watching the majority of this show. As for the rest of it, I suppose we will get to that. There are some concerns that I have with this company, and I will point those out as we go along, but for the second show of this company that I have seen, I already feel emotionally invested in a number of competitors on the roster.

This felt like a bigger show than the last one I watched. The commentary was handled differently, and some of it was edited down. You can also say that there seemed to be two halves of the show, and each felt like night and day from the other. I would advise that if you watch these shows and aren’t familiar, really give them a chance. This one, again, had a really poor opener. The fact of the matter is that they work hard in those dojos to get people ready to wrestle, and not everything clicks right away. But Satomura does a really good job of training these girls and setting them up for success. I have faith in these younger girls, and they do have talent, but watching some of their work is really hard on the eyes.

But the last three matches? I would have to say that it stayed up there with some of the best wrestling I have watched this summer. Every woman went out there and tore the house down. That is something that makes me appreciate what they are doing. It shows that they work hard and have a goal to perform at the highest level one day.

All right, I suppose we should get to it. Here is the Sendai Girls show from July 7, 2019, from Korakuen Hall in Tokyo!

Match #1: Haruka Umesaki & Mei Suruga vs. Maria & Mikodo Shindo

Shindo and Maria were both sporting singlets, and Umesaki and Suruga were both wearing flashier gear. Suruga and Shindo were on the last card that I watched. This is all younger girls, as is the tradition in Japan to have the beginning wrestlers open the show, but there didn’t seem to be much direction.

Maria and Umesaki start off with one another and pull off some slick technical stuff, but once Mei and Shindo tag in the match starts to go off the rails. It’s a lot of wandering around and blown spots. Some of the double team stuff is okay, but even the comedy aspects fell flat.

Shindo looked good towards the finish. She picks up on little things, and she has a slick way of wrestling that shows she is pretty comfortable in there already. She’s only been doing this for a year and she has her basics down pat. Umesaki goes for a La Magistral but Shindo reverses for the three and I let out a long sigh.

2/10

Match #2: Alex Lee vs. Chikayo Nagashima

Well, I recognize Nagashima right away. She wrestled for GAEA and Oz Academy for a long time. She looks like she is freelancing herself out now. I also recognize Alex Lee, so I have high hopes for this match when it starts, but it never really picks up the pace. One glaring botch I saw was Alex taking a high kick, no selling it, walking through it in the process, and throwing a kick of her own that was really subpar. Then she goes to powerbomb Chikayo and can’t get her up. She tries again, and she still can’t get her up. I don’t know if it was sandbagged or what, but I don’t think trying again like that is a good idea if you don’t get them up the first time. Just sell it and move on.

There were some things that looked all right. Alex Lee hit a buzzsaw kick, and the striking was okay. Nagashima takes advantage and then hits a double foot stomp off the top rope for the win.

3/10

Match #3: Aiger, Sakura Hirota & Samantha Heights vs. Hikaru Shida, Hiroyo Matsumoto & KAORU

There was some strange editing at the beginning of this match. Sakura Hirota is cutting a promo in the ring, and then it just cuts to the match. Now Hirota is something to be seen. She is a comedy wrestler, and her stuff isn’t terrible, hit or miss really, but her career has been insane. She’s been around since 96, and she has wrestled all over. The same can be said for Aiger, whose first match was all the way back in 1992 in the United States! This match is filled with vets, and they all get their stuff in for a pretty decent showing.

Hirota and Heights start cheering and Aiger gets into it as well. Hirota and Aiger do the rope spot where they crisscross while running. Then they both get tired. Then Heights starts whipping people into the slowest universal spot ever. Then she celebrates, and everybody, and I mean, every single wrestler, starts cheering her. Suddenly, the ref has had enough of that, and he starts scolding all the women, pretty much telling them they should be working.

Aiger traps KAORU on her shoulders. Aiger is kind of like this weird character, so just bear with me if you haven’t seen her before. But KAORU is trapped, and she can’t remove her hands off Aiger’s shoulders. So Shida offers to help. She runs at Aiger, Aiger, and KAORU both duck, and Shida is now stuck behind KAORU. Matsumoto goes to help, and then she gets stuck too! So now they are all bummed out. Matsumoto backs them all up into a corner, and then she goes to clothesline Aiger, who then ducks under it.

Hirota uses this time to climb onto a turnbuckle and start doing this intense ab exercise that seems to entrance Aiger. She holds herself upside-down and starts doing the splits in midair. So Hikaru grabs her kendo stick and smacks Hirata right in mid-split.

At one point near the end, Hirota starts sticking her thumb up people’s asses. Then, she does it to Aiger while Heights holds up Matsumoto, but she ends up ducking and Heights gets a face full of white mist. Matsumoto hits Hirota with a backdrop driver for the finish.

6/10

Match #4: Meiko Satomura vs. Ryo Mizunami

Ryo started wrestling in 2004 for GAEA, and she went right to Sendai Girls in 2007. She works primarily for Pro Wrestling WAVE, and last year she worked 100 matches. That is insane. These two have a rich history with one another. They first teamed together all the way back in 2008. The 2009 Best Tire Cup New Years Tournament Final also featured these two in their first singles match, with Satomura winning.

Ryo has a cool look. She has these shades with writing on them, and she just has the presence of a star. I like her and have always liked her work. Meiko Satomura is also amazing, and these two work damn hard. The first part of the match is really intense mat work, and the way they both flow and fight at the same time is really great. I don’t know if a lot of people appreciate stuff like that anymore, but you kind of want to have that tough look when you can because it makes things look a bit more legit and it gives people something to care about.

The match starts picking up after the chain wrestling and Mizunami is so good at connecting with the crowd. She starts getting the upper hand before Meiko starts throwing these insane high kicks. Her offense is really amazing.

They go back and forth until Satomura hits the Scorpion Rising for the win. After the match, Ryo cuts a promo and then Satomura responds. After they both speak, they shake hands and then slap one another, Inoki style, and then they hug.

7/10

Match #5: Chihiro Hashimoto vs. Yoshiko

I want to preface this match a bit, and I hope it doesn’t take too long. I am not a fan of Yoshiko. Years ago, she did this shoot on a woman by the name of Act Yasukawa that ended really badly, to the point where Yasukawa still can’t see fully out of one eye. It really is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen in wrestling. I’ll never forget the sick feeling in my gut after watching it.

But, I am willing to give people second chances. I don’t really know if she deserves it or not, as I don’t know her personally, and no one really knows the reasoning behind her going concrete on someone that was a third of her size, but now that she is back and wrestling for promotions through Japan, I can’t really avoid watching her. Maybe she has changed and learned from her mistakes. Also, if you really look at all of the other issues with wrestlers and the shitty things that they have done or have happened, I think I would have stopped watching long ago.

I like Hashimoto. She impressed me on the last Sendai Girls show that I saw. She is a former champion, and she has this great ability to show so much emotion through her face, to the point where I don’t even feel the need to hear a translation of what she is saying. There was this spot where she is trying to submit Yoshiko, and she has to keep adapting it to keep her down, and each time Yoshiko moves she changes her face to look more concerned. A lot of wrestlers don’t do little things like that, but it made the match so much better.

The finish comes where Hashimoto tries an avalanche piledriver. Yoshiko gives her a back body drop that gets her over the top rope, but she is able to barely land on the ring apron. They start fighting while Yoshiko is still sitting on the top, and Hashimoto gets a headbutt that sends her crashing to the arena floor. Then, Chihiro is able to pull off a powerbomb onto the floor while Yoshiko is standing on the apron. They start brawling and trying to get back into the ring to break the 20 count, but both are counted out. It ends in a double disqualification and seems to set up for a larger program.

7/10

Match #6: DASH Chisako vs. Sareee (Sendai Girls World Championship match)

Well, let me say that this is probably the best woman’s match I have seen this year, maybe even up there with the top three matches in general for me at this point. Sareee is amazing, and she is super aggressive and has some great fire when she is attacking. DASH is amazing too, and I can’t say that I have seen much of her work that has disappointed me. This match is one of those that I would consider MUST SEE and you should definitely go out of your way to see it.

Sareee, as I mentioned in my previous post, won the championship from Chihiro Hashimoto and she is from outside of the promotion. She also has the World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diane Championship. Sareee two belts isn’t a thing, but I want to make it one.

Right out the gate, these girls start going. I mean going. They don’t even slow down. There are a couple of times where they both have to catch their breaths, but they keep a really fast pace through the entire match. There are a couple of aerial moves, but they mostly brawl on the mat. It’s really rough stuff too. Then they bust out of the ring and start fighting in the stands. DASH puts Sareee on one of the bleachers, and after climbing up about 4 or 5, she does a double foot stomp onto Sareee. It was really impressive.

DASH continues the offense, with a northern lights suplex and another double stomp, but Sareee kicks out. They fight on the turnbuckle, and Sareee hits a powerbomb to start her counter. Sareee hits a fisherman’s suplex. Goes for another suplex, but Chisako rolls her up and then hits a huracanrana. Sareee goes for a German suplex, but DASH lands on her feet and gets a crucifix but Sareee kicks out. This match is so hot right now. Sareee hits a suplex but DASH kicks out. Sareee starts really laying into DASH now, and after a couple of head-butts, she hits a hammerlock Uranange for the win.

After the match, Chihiro Hashimoto comes out after Sareee is presented her trophy and two belts. Hashimoto does a little tug of war for the mic, which is kind of funny, and then issues a challenge for Sareee… I cannot wait to see that match!

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9/10

Holy crap, I don’t even know what to say after that main event, other than go and see it! Sendai Girls has a great product, with some of the best wrestlers in the world working their upper mid-card and main events. Sareee coming in right now and matching up with their top wrestlers is amazing to see as well. I can’t wait until the next show comes around. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for their trip to the UK this month! Toni Storm faces off against the legendary Meiko Satomura!

FINAL SCORE 6/10 (5.6 average)

Working The Loop 07/17/2019

Ice Ribbon

Yappy, one of the young girls that works for Ice Ribbon, has suffered a broken jaw at their show. Even though I refer to her as a young girl, after some digging I found that she is actually 39, and she is the oldest person on the roster. She hails from the Philippines and has been training for the past three years.

I don’t know if this means that she will be retiring, as 3 months off is not that long, but you also have to figure that as you get older, you probably don’t want to deal with injuries like that regularly. She got kicked in the face by Anou and it looked like she busted her mouth on that spot. I think that was also where her jaw was broken. Here’s hoping she makes a full recovery.

NJPW

Will Ospreay has been announced as being able to compete in his next G1 tournament match. The most unfortunate thing about this event is the toll that it takes on the bodies of the guys working it. They also hold it in such high regard that they always work through the aches and pains, and by the end of it, they are all beat up. One year Kenny Omega wrestled the last part of it with a fractured heel. Also, knowing Ospreay, he isn’t going to slow down for the rest of the G1.

When I was younger, and I think it was a cultural thing in wrestling, I always thought that it was awesome when you heard stories of how tough pro wrestlers were. Nowadays, after seeing so many passes away early or end up with physical problems, I just want them to live happy lives after they retire.

WWE

I know people were pretty disappointed with the direction of things after Sunday, but after this week of television, it looks like we may have some fresh matchups on the horizon. The problem I see with it is still the approach. For one, there was an established rule that once a champion loses their title, they cannot get a rematch. That is why I was confused why Rollins was put into that battle royal, and then he even ended up winning it. So even though it was a roundabout way, and it wasn’t a direct rematch, I still feel like the WWE doesn’t care about continuity. This is the biggest reason why people don’t care about these shows. There is nothing to really invest in, because a couple of weeks or months later, it doesn’t mean anything.

I was also impressed with how they debuted Bray Wyatt and his new look. This is a gimmick that has such great potential, and I hope they finally cash in on that. I had always thought that Bray could be a new Undertaker type of character that they could do really cool stuff with. But, it seems like every time they try, it ends up coming across as corny or hokey. This is probably the darkest iteration of this character, and the way that he has slimmed down and changed his look has put a fresh coat of paint on him. I’m excited for the next couple of weeks of TV before SummerSlam.

UFC

Uriah Faber was able to defeat Ricky Simon last Saturday night in a very convincing fashion, a KO in the first round. There was a lot of questions regarding what he would look like after being temporarily retired. Honestly, it is still hard to gauge. The fight went so fast that I couldn’t tell you that he looked like a contender, especially with guys like Benavidez and Formiga waiting for a shot at the Bantamweight Title. It could have just been a bad night for Simon. But, Uriah called out Cejudo after he won, and I think that maybe the direction they are going with.

There isn’t a lot of certainty on the horizon with the UFC. With ESPN stepping in and covering their PPV services, there isn’t as much pressure to put on big fights that would cause for big buy rates. This is kind of a good thing, because you can put on a more sport-oriented product without worrying about covering costs. ESPN now takes care of that with their TV contract. But, you also don’t know if Connor is going to be back this year, if ever, and you don’t really know what kind of numbers a guy like Khabib Nurmagomedov is going to pull in. Ideally, we can say that the last Connor fight helped put him on the map as a mainstream sports star, but that isn’t what happened with Amanda Nunes when she beat Ronda, so I don’t know if we can speak that soon for him either. So I would think that Cejudo vs. Faber is definitely something that could pop up once Cejudo heals from his injuries. I would assume the UFC would try their best to get that fight, and a Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier fight on the books as soon as they can.

Site Update

There will be my Sendai Girls write up from the 07/07 show coming soon, probably tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest. I will also be doing some write-ups to recap where we stand with the G1 Climax this weekend. There is a write up I have been working on for some time on the year of 1995 in professional wrestling, and I am hoping with the research I have been doing (reading old newsletters and forum posts) it comes out as good as I want it to. Besides that, I will probably try to work on some more show reviews or at least individual matches. There have been a lot of great Joshi matches, as well as some rumblings from Pro Wrestling NOAH and All Japan Pro Wrestling. Besides writing about wrestling, there are other projects that I work on, so I will try to get in as much as I can without feeling burnt out.

The Crazy Wrestling Weekend of 07/13 – 07/14

With expectations being set high going into this past weekend, it was up in the air how things would be when the dust settled. It was a stacked Saturday, with an EVOLVE anniversary card going against an AEW benefit show, mix that in with two New Japan shows that included their annual tournament, the G1 Climax, taking place with a plethora of independent shows and you had a very stacked weekend. I had a lot to watch with some new Joshi promotions I had been getting in to. I made it a point to have New Japan as a priority overall. If I was going to miss anything, it damn sure wasn’t going to be NJPW. But luckily I was able to get in a lot before the end of the weekend.

I wanted to cover the entire weekend at once, and the reasoning behind that was most wrestling fans saw as much as they could. WWE putting the EVOLVE show on the Network was a move that put independent wrestling in front of a lot of new eyeballs. I know people were saying that this wasn’t an indy show, and I suppose you could make a case for that, but I saw a lot of indy guys on that card. I think one mistake, and it wasn’t a big one, because it is on the Network and you want people watching this show, was having two WWE guys work the main event. I don’t care how good it was. I don’t want this sold as a Barely Legal like show if the main event is WWE guys. I could only imagine what the crowd would do in 1997 if that ECW Pay Per View had a main event of Marc Mero vs. Flash Funk.

But was it better than AEW? I would have to lean towards yes. It was presented in a different fashion than a normal WWE Network special. It was an EVOLVE show. They made sure to keep that authentic feel to the show. AEW wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. The main event didn’t deliver, and there were just too many misses. But it wasn’t a bad show. I think I have just set a high expectation for AEW shows and it is hard for them to meet those standards.

The underlying story was how both shows were booked on the same night. Since EVOLVE is probably having their shows being put on the WWE Network very shortly, it looked as if WWE wanted to broadcast it to not just showcase it, but to spite AEW. Kenny Omega took offense and fired off some tweets that played on WWE’s relationship with the Saudi government and ulterior motives for running the show the same day as their benefit show. I don’t blame him for questioning it or even lashing out about it, but it just turned it into an “us vs. them” thing within the fan base, and it got old really quick. The entire conversation is kind of silly, but social media makes things silly.

My opinion on it: of course McMahon did it to spite AEW. He is a spiteful person. You don’t buy out your competition time after time without being a little cutthroat.

Is this wrong? I don’t know. I honestly don’t think so. It is just the way that Vince operates and has operated for years. I think we should just get used to stuff like this and move on from it. The mistake I think that was made was Cody and others continually acknowledging it. That made it come across as being bitter. The focus really should have just stayed on the charity and left it there.

As far as wrestling goes, it was a mixed bag from AEW and pretty solid from EVOLVE. AEW doesn’t have to come up that big, at least to me, yet. They have until television starts, and that is when I feel like they need to get serious. Right now, these are sort of free test shows to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. A lot of stuff doesn’t work. The Librarians gimmick doesn’t really work. It just gets annoying heat, and it does nothing for the wrestlers. Sonny Kiss got no favors having to deal with that gimmick, and that is a guy who could have benefited from a good showing in a singles match.

Brandi Rhodes cutting a promo about being depressed and being buried for her wrestling skills and then coming out and working heel for her match, and babyface for the post-show promo: that doesn’t work. We can’t be told to believe that Brandi isn’t playing wrestler one minute and then see her do that exact thing the next minute. I think she will turn into a great performer if she sticks to it, but we also don’t want to be insulted in the process, especially when you are selling yourself as a smarter alternative to the WWE.

Alex Marvez, and the entire concept of a three-man booth: it’s not working. I don’t even think I have to elaborate on this subject. It’s just not working. Let’s fix it.

There was some good to come out of this show. I loved seeing the preview for Kong vs. Kong. Aja came out for a save for Allie after the Brandi match, and it was an amazing moment all by itself. I would guess that the match is going to take place on Pay Per View, and I wonder if it will be a tag or a singles match. From what I’ve read, Awesome Kong is pretty busted up these days, and she has been wanting to focus more on her acting after being on GLOW. But this is a match that wrestling fans have wanted for a long time.

The emphasis on Japanese Women’s wrestling as a whole is a plus for me. I love women’s wrestling in general, but Joshi wrestling has always had a soft spot in my heart, and seeing women like Riho and Nakajima go out there and wow audiences with their skill is something that makes me happy with what AEW is doing. You can tell that Kenny has a lot of say in how the women are booked, and he has always revered his Japanese female counterparts.

The wrestling was also amazing. Sammy Guevara and Luchasaurus came out and showed why they have a spot for a company on national TV. MJF has a star presence that few in the business can capture as well as he does, and he isn’t even twenty-five yet.

As for EVOLVE, the entire show was pretty good, and there wasn’t too much I had to complain about besides the WWE guys working at the top. This is something that is not new for them. They have had other shows with NXT or WWE guys there. A lot of those guys did go through there and work, with Bryan, McIntyre, and Gargano sticking out specifically. I’m sure it was great for them to go back to their old stomping ground and lend a helping hand for their anniversary show. Also, if this is what the premium tier of the network is going to bring, then I am all for it. I would gladly pay $15 a month for the tape library, WWE and EVOLVE Pay Per Views, especially if you threw in some ICW and wXw.

As we are getting short for space and we still have to cover the G1 Climax as well as Extreme Rules, I am going to say that you should check out Shotzi Blackheart vs. Brandi Lauren in their No DQ match. Those two stole the show, and that is saying something when you look at the talent that was there that night.

Moving on…

The G1 Climax 29 has not disappointed at all. This really has been one of the best starts to the tournament that I can remember, but every year for the past three years have been like this. It sounds so crazy to keep saying it every year, that this could be the best G1 of all time, because how can that even be? Especially this year, when so much of the top talent isn’t back in the tournament?

But New Japan has found a way, again, to try to top themselves. I think that is what I like most about this company. They don’t ever settle for something that the fans will just think is okay, they really try to go above and beyond each time they go out there for a show.

I have to mention that due to personal conflicts and priorities, I was unable to watch Monday morning/Sunday night’s show. I will have to include those matches in a future installment, most likely a Working the Loop or a stand-alone New Japan write up, but I do want to mention that I am aware that Will Ospreay was unable to compete in his match last night. While this isn’t the first time this has happened in a G1, it is kind of rare to see it. I just hope he is able to heal and get back to doing what he loves. I know a lot of people have so much invested in this tournament, and we all think about how the booking will change and whatnot, but we really should be thinking about the guys doing this stuff too. I hope Ospreay makes a full recovery, and most importantly, I hope he takes care of his body.

Matches that stuck out to me, and ones that I rated above an 8 are as follows:

– Shingo Takagi vs. Juice Robinson 8/10

– Jeff Cobb vs. Tomohiro Ishii 9/10

– Jay White vs. Hirooki Goto 9/10

– SANADA vs. Will Ospreay 8/10

​- Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada 9/10

​- Kota Ibushi vs. Evil 8/10

​- Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. KENTA 8/10

I know people will think that I am being liberal with my match ratings, but those would probably be people who haven’t seen these shows yet. It isn’t just high spot after high spot either. They were really matches that told a different story.

The biggest story coming out of the standings would be Kota Ibushi going 0 for 2 as far as wins go. The loss against KENTA wasn’t too surprising, but his loss to Evil was really shocking. He was my pick to win the entire thing besides Naito, and he could still run the table and find himself in the finals, but this isn’t a lock anymore. The other big story would be KENTA beating not only Ibushi but Tanahashi as well. I don’t really feel shocked by this, seeing how KENTA is an amazing athlete and worker, and he deserves to be showcased in this tournament, but I still find it strange that a “NOAH” guy came in and beat two of New Japan’s top guys.

For the record, I don’t really see Yano rolling up Naito as a surprise. I remember when he pinned Tanahashi years ago in another G1 Tournament. I just love that Yano acts as a spoiler from time to time. He is perfect for that spot.

Also, Lance Archer is the man. Please make sure to watch his matches this year.

On to the last item…

Extreme Rules was all right. There was some good wrestling, and we had the best Undertaker match that we have probably seen in years, but as far as the story goes, it was disappointing. For one, the scripted promo from Seth and Becky was really awful. It made them sound really weird and kind of psycho. When couples talk about walking around a city talking about how they are going to crack people’s heads open and pigeon poop, then that is when I question their sanity. I think that the WWE writing team has really lost any aspect of reality when it comes to booking realistic stories.

This event was also too long. This is a common theme with WWE. Even their smaller Pay Per Views feel like they are dragging. I know that it cuts down on people getting bigger paychecks and revenue, but holy crap lets cut some of the fat on these shows down. I didn’t even watch the pre-show, because I would have put my head through a wall. Wrestling shows shouldn’t take up half of your day. I don’t care how big of a fan you are, there needs to be some time to breathe and let everything process. Having it stretch out so long makes that really hard to do.

As for the big story out of the event, it looks like Brock is back with the Universal Title and we are back to holding pattern city. I mean, I knew he was going to eventually get it, but to me, this just says that we are going to get a “WrestleMania rematch” come SummerSlam, and I feel like that is lazy booking. I want to see new interactions and matchups, not the same thing that I was watching in April. WWE should feel lucky that AEW is so inexperienced right now. They are just leaving money on the table putting Brock back in the title picture. Maybe I am wrong, and we will get some amazing story out of this, but I really doubt it.


That is that. I can honestly say that this weekend lived up to much of the hype. I really enjoyed it. I don’t think these weekends should come around often, as I am worn out from watching so much wrestling, and I still have some Japanese promotions to check out this week, but it was still a really fun time. What was your favorite thing about the weekend? What was your least favorite? Comment below or feel free to hook up with me on social media. I am going to go and watch something fictional that doesn’t include men and women wearing tights. Enjoy your week!

Working The Loop (07/12/2019)

Ice Ribbon

I was able to catch the Ice Ribbon show from 06/30/2019, #968 in SKIP City. The main event particuarly really blew me away. The unfortunate thing about it is that it starts very slow, almost to the point that I was thinking that it was a stinker, but the last half was amazing. Maya Yukihi and Tequila Saya put on an amazing title match, and it was enough for me to start really seeking out more Joshi promotions. The first two (the other being Sendai Girls) have really impressed me over the past couple of days. I used to watch quite a bit of Ice Ribbon in the past, but was never a regular follower. I think that is going to change.

One particular spot that really wowed me was a moonsault crossbody that Tequila went for, and Yukihi was able to kick her in midair. I would rate the match an 8/10.

The only problem with the show is that compared to Sendai Girls. they may have better talent at the top, but by god, their first match for that event was probably the worst match I have seen all year. I am not even lying. Do not see that show and expect anything at all from that opening match whatsoever. It was a solid 3, if that.

The rest of the card was not bad. Young women to seasoned vets populated the show, and you really get a good show all around.

​​AEW/EVOLVE/NJPW on Saturday

I don’t know if I could think up a date that would have this kind of wrestling and have it all being done within minutes of one another. There are also some really killer matches that are booked for that date, with Jay White and Hirooki Goto sticking out, along with Jeff Cobb and Tomohiro Ishii. As a wrestling fan, I think it’s awesome that we have such a large variety to choose from that day. You also have to think to yourself, nothing is really holding you backup from watching it all. I don’t know how I will end up doing it. I probably will end up watching New Japan shows live or right after they air. With watching EVOLVE vs AEW, I probably will go with AEW live and EVOLVE on delay. I wouldn’t say there is a bias there with me. I used to watch quite a lot of EVOLVE when it first started up, and I love Gabe’s work, and I hope it works out great for him. This is probably the introduction to the tiered pricing that is coming around the corner on the network.

As for the timing of placing it on the network and the tweets and the subtweets and all the drama that now encompasses this show and AEW’s event, I really don’t care. I don’t have any stock in these companies. I hope they both do well. I have loved Gabe Sapolsky’s work for a very long time. I hope that AEW does really well once they get on television and give the WWE legit run for their money, although I don’t know if it will be possible when those new TV contracts kick in. I just don’t see myself jumping on any bandwagon.

But now when I look at it, I guess I don’t mind if people do. It’s part of the fun of the fall coming. Soon there is going to be AEW fans and WWE fans and New Japan fans, and everyone is going to be arguing who has been a better company, and we will all have fun watching wrestling again.

Although, I doubt that will actually happen.

Pro-Wrestling NOAH

I had fallen behind on my Japanese wrestling as of late, and I completely missed the Misawa Tribute shows. That meant that I missed a gem of a match between AXIZ (Go Shiozaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima) and Takashi Sugiura & KAZMA SAKAMOTO where Sugiura was able to get the win by guillotine choke. The only problem I saw with the match was the finish, and it was kind of strange to have the ref lift the hands three times when most places will call the match as soon as they see the wrist go limp. It just makes it more realistic and less hokey. But it was still a 9/10. It is a must-see match, and there were spots where Shiozaki was chopping SAKAMOTO so hard that his own hand turned red and looked a bit swollen, though I don’t think it was too bad.

This style of wrestling is cool and amazing and all, but I don’t really enjoy it as much as I used to as a kid and seeing All Japan tapes. I think it’s because Misawa died doing that style of wrestling, and at a memorial show for his honor, I know you are going to wrestle hard to accomplish that, but I felt scared for some of these guys going forward. Kobashi had to retire from doing those insane chop spots, as the nerves in his hand began to die out. I just hope these guys slow it down a bit going forward.

The other show I was able to catch was the start of the Junior League, which is a tournament that NOAH has for their Junior Heavyweight division every year. Nothing stuck out too much for me, but I am also kind of unfamiliar with the Jr. Heavyweights in NOAH right now, so I will have to come back and give a better opinion after seeing more of the tournament.

Dragon Gate

​I ​was able to see the Ben-K win over Eita from the King of Gate Final. It was edited down for television, so it wasn’t the entire twenty-minute match, but it was the good stuff. I like how Dragon Gate edits their shows, and they caption enough English for you to be able to keep up with the storylines. PAC cutting promos in English helps out as well.

With Ben-K winning the tournament, he is able to challenge PAC for the Open The Dream Gate Championship later this month, and that match should be a killer. Ben-K has become a really amazing guy over the past year especially, and his win seemed to mean a lot to the fanbase. The show also previewed him teaming up with Shin Skywalker, who came out and rescued him from a beat down by R.E.D. I am fairly certain those matches have already taken place, as the television show seemed behind compared to the online subscription service. Dragon Gate’s network is one that I want to get soon, but it just isn’t in the budget right now. This is a company that is worth going out of your way to watch it, and each time I see it, I would have to say it’s the second best company in Japan right now, close behind New Japan Pro Wrestling and far ahead of All Japan.

Best In The World?

Seth Rollins has been telling anybody who will listen that the WWE is the best wrestling in the world right now. He’s been on a tear on Twitter, interacting with Will Ospreay and Wade Keller, laughing off criticism as well as calling out his friend, John Moxley, for “taking his ball and going home”. Needless to say, it’s been quite a week for the WWE Universal Champion.

I’m not one in the camp that says that Seth should mind his Ps and Qs and show some “respect” for outside companies. Let’s be real, come the fall, everyone is going to be competing for the same market share. Things could get really hairy in the foreseeable future. With those implications, maybe it is only natural for a “WWE” guy to double down on his position and why he chooses to stay with a company that seems to be getting thrown so much shade right now.

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of negative things that you could say about the WWE, particularly their booking, right now and nobody would blame you. Things are messy up and down the roster. Some people get over regardless of how they are booked, like Ricochet, and some are buried due circumstances beyond their control, like EC3. There is a top of the card that makes really good money, but there is a lot of people meandering.

Meanwhile, NJPW, even with all the losses they took over the past year, has really set themselves up to showcase newer wrestlers like Will Ospreay, El Phantasmo, Jon Moxley, and KENTA. Sure, there are criticism to be made about their product. I don’t like how dangerous some of their spots can be. I also don’t like the way that they book out in advance at times, where you don’t know the card until a couple of weeks before the event, but these are things that work in Japan, and there has to be some understanding of a learning curve when entering another market like the US and Canada. But still, for the amount that I pay each month for NJPW World, I feel like I get a lot more for my dollar than the WWE Network, even with more content being put up on WWE’s end.

The reasoning I have, and I know it won’t be shared by EVERYONE, is that I get more payoffs from the booking from New Japan than I do from the WWE. The wrestling isn’t that much better. Hell, the storylines and events aren’t always that much better either. But you can tell that there is effort put into how things are resolved, while with the WWE, there just seems to be effort put in on what will shock and awe people. There is only so much of that you can do before we as an audience are wanting more.

With the recent news of Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff now going back into WWE management and helping run the two different brands, I think we can sleep a little easier as to the company having some direction as far as moving the story along, but I think there has to be a lot of fundamental changes in how the product is presented. I think this is inevitable, due to the rumors that Fox wants to present this under their Fox Sports banner, and really, the current incarnation of the product is nothing even close to that.

But let’s get back to the main issue: what constitutes a company being able to be called “The Best In The World” at something? The barometer that most fans are probably going to point to would be bottom line profits, and in that spectrum, nobody is going to even come close to touching WWE now, or in the near future. The landscape just doesn’t support anyone else like it does the WWE right now, especially with the new television contracts on the horizon. But, should we really ignore the other aspects that make up a successful wrestling company?

I would have to point out that the numbers you see dwindling on the WWE side should be something to consider. If the WWE is the “best”, then why are viewers leaving the product in droves? Sure, they could possibly still be tuning into the Network PPVs every single month, but I would imagine if a company was the “best” at something, it would encourage their fan base to tune in all the time. That is how I feel when I watch baseball or football. I don’t feel like that with WWE. I feel like I can usually skip the weekly TV most of the time and still have the same viewing experience come the once a month Pay Per Views. I would imagine a lot of people feel the same way, when you take a peak at the weekly ratings.

When a New Japan Pro Wrestling show comes up, especially the upcoming G1 Climax tournament, I feel really excited. Most of the time, I don’t want to wait to watch even the smaller shows, due to fear of having it spoiled online, which is the exact opposite of how I treat WWE. I know this is all very anecdotal, but I feel like something should excite me to watch wrestling regularly, and not just to watch once a month . I also don’t want to dish out another $10 a month for something that I only get enjoyment out of every thirty days or so. I want to feel like my time is valuable, and if it is, I want to make sure that I spend it watching something that I enjoy thoroughly, rather than something I feel I need to enjoy, if that makes sense.

Again, what constitutes being recognized to be the best? Is it subjective? Is it something that can be gauged? Is it an answer that we can possibly find? If it is, I doubt that we would find it coming from the wrestlers. The truth of the matter is that the fans are the ones who decide these things, and they always have. They will decide who is the best in the fall, and they will decide who is the best when it comes to buying Pay Per Views and merchandise, and they will decide when it comes to television ratings. I think my point here is that we don’t know what is the best right now. The competition is just starting, and we probably won’t really know who the real “winner” is until we are well down the road.

Working the Loop (04/12/2019)

Hey there wrestling fans! Hasn’t it been wild since Sunday? Even with a pretty lackluster Raw and Smackdown Live after Wrestlemania, we still have a lot to talk about before the weekend hits. Big things are happening in the WWE, the independent scene, and overseas. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
SASHA BANKS THREATED TO QUIT

 

Well this one was definitely a big news item since it broke midweek, but to me, it isn’t surprising at all. Sasha was apparently upset about having to drop the Women’s Tag Titles as easily as they did on Sunday, and she been under the impression that she and Bailey would have a more impactful run. Also, there is some chatter about having heat with Alexa Bliss and not wanting to do a segment on Raw that would involve the three of them.

I think AEW opening up with as big of a splash as it has will only increase the cases of people wanting to break away from WWE if they don’t get what they need creatively. The Khans have deep pockets, and they also have a pretty good understanding of keeping their athletes happy. When you look at the circumstances surrounding other wrestler’s contracts that are under the AEW banner, it’s clear that they want a good balance between wants and needs, and that should keep workers happy. This is something that took place back during the Monday Night Wars, and you really can’t blame the wrestlers from taking advantage of the changing landscape.

This is a troubling trend coming from the E, though. Consider how many wrestlers have left the WWE over the past couple of years. Austin Aries, Pac, reportedly Dean Ambrose, Cody Rhodes, and Jack Swagger have all decided that the grass is greener elsewhere. This is also coupled with rumors that The Revival were once on their way out, this may becoming a trend within the WWE locker room.

Should this be a concern? I think so. With the profits that Vince and Co. expect with the new FOX broadcasting deals with the Saudi Arabia, I think they figure that they will be able to sign anybody as long as they can throw money at them. The issue that I see is that they don’t seem to account for the creative freedom that the rigid WWE system doesn’t seem to provide. I am not knocking the system, as I am aware it is put in place for the company to maximize profits, but maybe not everyone is fit for that kind of work?

It will be interesting to see how everyone is going to adapt to this new landscape, and if the workers are going to make a habit of threatening to quit if things don’t go swimmingly.
RING OF HONOR

 

Okay, so I try to stay pretty positive when watching wrestling, as I hate to dwell too much on negative feedback, but I really hate the decision to bring in Enzo and Cass. It isn’t that I am against people getting second chances, I just don’t think they blend into the product at all. ROH has always been a place that focuses on work rate in the ring, and Cass and Enzo don’t really fit that bill at all.

I think the biggest reasoning behind the relationship is that they need to fill that vacuum that was left on the main event level when the AEW guys left. I know that this will create a pretty decent buzz, and I know that some new eyeballs will definitely tune in to see it, but I still don’t think it is going to work out that great. I would hope that the egos on those two have died down a bit, but I guess that remains to be seen. Either way, I do wish them luck in their new home.
AEW

 

The rumor going around right now is that Turner is in talks with the Khans and the rest of AEW management about putting on a weekly show possibly on TNT. This is a really huge piece of news. Not only does the NBA and MLB do gangbusters on the channel, but they also were in talks with WWE and the UFC before they came to agreements with their respected network deals. It looks like they are trying to bolster their network with more live sports, which are still DVR proof in the land of cord cutters, and I think AEW makes a good fit. For one, it harkens back to when WCW was running weekly on Turner Broadcasting back in the 80s and 90s.

Double or Nothing is closer than you think. With only a couple more weeks before the next show, it will be interesting to see what new developments come along before that date. Will there be a new television announcement? Will there be new wrestlers coming along? We can only wait and see.